Let me take a guess: when you work out, you hope to burn as many calories as possible. Am I right? That seems to be a universal truth. When you can carve out time to sweat, you want the most bang for your buck. But which workouts will deliver on that and give you the best calorie burn? We’ve put together our top four ways to burn mega calories, from which you can pick and choose. Mix and match them throughout the week interspersed with a little lower intensity cardio—or try all four.
HIIT (i.e. High Intensity Interval Training.)
THE THEORY: High intensity interval training comes in many forms, but the goal remains the same: go all-out with your highest intensity for a short interval, then take a brief recovery and do it again. These higher intensity periods increase the body’s need for oxygen, causing your system to search for that oxygen and therefore burn more fat than lower intensity training. Tabata intervals, one form of HIIT, require you to push hard for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat eight times for one “Tabata.” The HIIT intervals can come in many forms, but the emphasis remains the same: HIGH INTENSITY. Done correctly, you will be breathing through your mouth and should NEED the recovery in order to continue.
THE WORKOUT: You can perform HIIT with running, biking, an elliptical machine or even weights. Have a timer available and after a short, five-minute warm up, go hard for 20-30 seconds, then do low intensity or rest for 10-20 seconds. Repeat this pattern 6-10 times for a huge calorie burn. For more fun, try our Calorie Sizzler Tabata Workout, Body Weight Tabata, Dumbbell Tabata Workout or better yet, try our Get Healthy U TV.
Related: The Beginners Guide to HIIT
THE THEORY: Plyometrics are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in a short interval of time, with the goal of increasing power. Formerly called “jump training,” the movements are explosive in nature. Every time you land from a jump, your muscles get a stretch. That gives your next jump even more power. This gives your muscles more power and uses tons of “energy” (i.e. calories!)
THE WORKOUT: There are more plyometric exercises than can be mentioned here, but these are four of our favorites. Try the first one for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then do it again. Repeat this pattern until you’ve done the first move four times, then go to the next exercise and try that one four times. Once you get through everything—that’s 16 plyometrics—you’ve had a kickbutt workout and torched calories from your body! Click on each exercise below for a picture and description.
THE THEORY: Working out with weights has long been known to shape bodies, sculpt muscles and build strength. But here’s a little secret: it burns a lot of calories, especially fat calories! When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn’t pump iron. Why? The lifters’ loss was almost all fat; the others lost fat and muscle.
Keep in mind that muscle is ACTIVE tissue; it burns calories constantly. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. And no, you will NOT bulk up! Muscle is compact tissue. A pound of muscle takes up much less space than a pound of fat, so instead of getting big and bulky, you will be smaller and look better. But here’s the trick—heavier weights matter. Pumping 3 lb. dumbbells 30 or 40 times is not going to do it. You have to find weights that challenge you after 8-12 repetitions in order to see change.
THE WORKOUT: First, choose your dumbbells. Before you purchase or use any dumbbells, try them out in the store or at the gym. An overhead press is a good move to test them with. Remember the rule of thumb: if you can’t finish 8 reps, they’re too heavy; if you can do more than 12 without it being hard, they’re too light. Keep in mind you might need heavier weights for things like squats, and lighter weights for shoulder or tricep work. Once you have your dumbbells, we have tons of great strength training workouts for you to pick and choose from. Some of my favorites are:
THE THEORY: If you’ve never been to an indoor cycling class, it’s time! Cycling on your own is fine, but it is not the same as jumping into a class full of people, listening to motivating music, having an instructor push you to your limits, and sweating like crazy. Indoor cycling, or “spinning”, has an energy all its own. Most people burn between 400-700 calories in a 45 minute class. The best part of all? It’s low impact! No pounding on the knees or stress on the back. All you need to get started on an exercise bike is comfortable workout clothes and sneakers. Wicking tops and padded cycling shorts can make your ride more comfortable, but are not necessary.
THE WORKOUT: Most spinning classes range from 30-60 minutes in length. The format for the class will vary, but expect to be using the resistance lever on the bike to simulate hills and a faster pedaling speed to simulate sprints. Cycling classes are the least intimidating of all fitness classes because you actually stay on your bike the entire time and adjust your resistance as you desire. No one really knows how hard you are working—except you—so sticking to your own level is easy. Before attending your first class, find out more details about spinning by reading our blog The Beginners Guide to Your First Spin Class. Then check out schedules at your local gym and get your spin on!
Hopefully one or more of these ideas gets you ready to move your body and burn off those calories. Try one, try them all, but as they say: Just Do It!